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Wedspiration > Advice > Planning A Marquee Wedding? Here’s What You Need To Know.
Advice
Planning A Marquee Wedding? Here’s What You Need To Know.
Planning a marquee wedding? Good for you. It’s a great way to create a practical and completely customised space but it’s worth knowing a few things before you dive in. Here’s some tips from people in the biz.
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Words by Karina Lowndes
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10 December 2023
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It’s not unusual these days for couples to host a marquee wedding somewhere outside of what used to be considered a ‘traditional’ wedding venue – private properties, working farms, rooftop gardens, wineries, micro-breweries and warehouses are now some of the most popular places for couples to say ‘I do’.

But because a lot of these spaces are not purposefully designed for weddings (which is part of their charm) a pop-up structure like a marquee, tipi or Sperry Tent is an ideal way to create a designated reception space and the perfect remedy for unpredictable weather.

That said, there are certain costs and logistics involved and more than one kind of marquee, tent or tipi to choose from. So before you start planning your own marquee wedding, here’s what you need to know.

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Feature image: Pip Take A Picture at Mayfield Vineyard

Structures

We’ve stretched the term ‘marquee wedding’ well beyond its traditional meaning. We now use it to refer to any celebration that features a pop-up style structure including Sperry Tents, tipis and pagodas.

Marquees

These are your traditional, rectangular-shaped structures that come with clear or white roofs and walls that can be left open or pulled closed, depending on the weather. South Coast Party Hire also offer a custom-designed, black frame marquee.

Ideal for: Sophisticated, large-scale weddings.

 

Sperry Tents

These are handcrafted canopies made from waterproof sailcloth that are supported by natural wooden poles.

Ideal for: Wedstivals and boho-style celebrations.

 

Pavilions

Demountable structures similar to a marquee that can be installed as an open-air structure or with a waterproof white or clear roof with roll down side curtains. Pavilion Marquees have designed their own barn-style pavilions.

Ideal for: Couples who appreciate practicality and design and who want to add their own styling.

 

Nordic Tents / Tipis

A simple, witch’s hat style canopy supported by natural wooden poles.

Ideal for: Large outdoor celebrations and winter weddings (there is usually an option to have a fire pit placed in the middle).

 

Naked Tipis

As above but without the waterproof canopy.

Ideal for: Outdoor ceremonies, casual lounge areas and dance floors.

 

Pagodas

Smaller marquees with a sleek, high pitched roof design.

Ideal for: Smaller-scale events and couples on a tight budget.

NSW marquee wedding
NSW marquee wedding

Photo credits: Emma Wand Photography // Callan Robison Photography – South Coast Party Hire.

Flooring

There’s a general consensus amongst marquee wedding hire companies that having flooring is a good idea – particularly if the forecast is rain and you don’t want your dancefloor turning into a muddy slip-n-slide. “I would always recommend it if it has been wet weather a few days prior to the set-up or if the terrain is a little uneven”, says John of Pavilion Marquees, who service NSW, QLD and VIC.

It’s a labour intensive job and therefore an additional charge but as Fiona of Bourke Hire says, “it can add another dimension to the marquee”.

Erin of South Coast Party Hire adds that “some venues will request flooring to be added in order to not damage the grass.”

There are different flooring options available including (but not limited to) integrated timber flooring and woven mat flooring.

marquee wedding
VIC marquee wedding

Photo credit: Teel Studios – South Coast Party Hire.

Set-up

One of the most frequently asked questions is where a marquee can be set-up and the good news is they can be set-up (almost) anywhere. As Erin explains, “all our marquee structures can be set up anywhere. Ideally you would have a flat grassed area where we can peg into. If the structure has to be installed on a concrete/hardstand surface that is okay too there is just an additional cost to weight the structure.”

Sperry Tents are a little more complicated, as they must be pegged into the ground so a flat surface with adequate truck access is essential. “Our Sperry Tents must be pegged into the ground, there is no option for them to be weighted so it is very important that the ground it is being installed on is a soft surface that is able to be penetrated by 1m long pegs”, says Erin.

Carmen of Sperry Tents Australia adds, “no overhead power poles is another good one because the tents are over six metres tall, some of our tents go up to eight metres tall and we just have to be aware of what services are underground…”

Keep in mind that if needed, most companies will offer to do a site inspection to ensure the access and location is satisfactory and to make sure everything runs smoothly on the day. “Most of the time I can gauge if I can do the job or not by looking at photos. I still do site visits if I feel its necessary or they are complex set up and it’s a great opportunity to meet the clients in person too”, adds John.

NSW marquee wedding
marquee weddings Australia

Photo credit: Pavilion Marquees // The Evoke Company – South Coast Party Hire.

Styling

We’ve all spent too much time on Pinterest, eye-balling photos of marquees and tipis adorned with hanging floral installations and statement lighting – it’s a huge part of their appeal. It’s important to be aware however, that certain structures have limited anchor points.

“There are very limited hanging points in a Sperry Tent as the ceiling is canvas held up by timber poles. The ceiling is one incredible piece of canvas so any damage to one section can render the entire canvas ruined”, explains Erin. For this reason, South Coast Party Hire and many other marquee hire companies offer lighting installation as part of their service or insist on external companies adhering to a strict set of guidelines.

“We often provide the ‘framework’ for florists or AV companies to install in our marquees”, says Fiona.

If you’re looking for something exceptionally sturdy, a pavilion is a good option. “I designed the pavilions to have beams running across not only for stability but as an intentional way of creating a space where lighting and florals can be hung”, says John. “The beams and roof rafters have load ratings but we have never had to adjust the installations as they are always under the load ratings.”

marquee wedding Byron Bay

Photo credit: Carly Tia – Pavilion Marquees.

Weather

While tipis and Sperry Tents are a perfect wet weather solution, they also provide protection from the wind and much needed shade on hot, sunny days. “We use our tents as a sunshade”, says Carmen, adding that overheating isn’t an issue. “Our canopies are really quite high and have a nice airflow…”

Fiona says for couples hiring a marquee during the warmer months, it’s not unusual for them to install air-conditioning or fans. “We frequently install wedding marquees in a hot climate. For these weddings we can install air conditioners or fans. Air conditioners can be noisy but are a good way to cool the marquee down and can be turned off during speeches, for example.”

For couples who would prefer an outdoor wedding but are thinking of organising a marquee as a back-up option in case of wet weather, it’s important to be clear on each companies individual policies around cancellations, notice periods etc.

“Sometimes clients would like an “open air” pavilion with no roof and then if it looks like there might be a shower forecast, we can install the roof…” says John.

Generally speaking, however, companies will not place a marquee on “hold” and allow you to cancel your order days out from your event given the supply and demand of their stock. If you’re willing to take a gamble and hire a marquee or tipi at the last minute if needed, most companies will allow you to so do, provided they still have stock available and enough staff to complete the set-up and pack-down.

marquee wedding NSW

Photo credit: Pavilion Marquees // I Got You BabeBourke Hire.

Optional Extras

A lot of marquee and tipi hire companies provide additional services like lighting and floor installation (as mentioned above), as well as furniture hire and set-up, fire pits, floor plans, styling and more. Using one company will save you time and money (particularly if your venue is outside of a main city), so it’s always worth asking what optional extras they provide. At the very least, they can usually recommend some great wedding vendors who they work with regularly.

 

Check out marquee hire companies here and a broad range of marquee-friendly wedding venues here.

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